During WW2 Silverstone was a bomber station and it was pressed into service as a motor racing circuit in 1948. The three prewar British circuits, Brooklands, Donington Park and Crystal Palace were all out of commission and ex-military airfields offered ready-made road surfaces, other basic facilities such as drainage systems, and they were usually a long way from densely populated areas.
Numerous airfields were used for racing in Britain. Some hosted only a handful of meetings, while others (Snetterton, Croft, Goodwood and Thruxton among them) became established fixtures.
Silverstone was chosen for special attention by the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) because of its location - it was within easy reach of both London and the Midlands. It was a clear sign that British motor racing was set on reaching a wider public than had been the case prewar.
The first Silverstone circuit was formed by using a combination of runways and perimeter tracks, and the second layout in 1949 did the same, but arrived at a different layout. Other, shorter, circuits were constructed for club events.
In 1950 came a layout which was unchanged until 1974 and, with the main circuit (2.927 miles), came a shorter Club circuit which shared the same start/finish straight. The names of the corners came from local associations: Stowe from adjacent Stowe School; Becketts from a one-time chapel dedicated to St. Thomas a Beckett, and so on.
In its early days, Silverstone was considered to be a merely a medium-fast circuit, but it emerged as a high-speed venue when cornering speeds and engine torque increased. A chicane was added at Woodcote Corner in time for the 1975 Grand Prix (the length increased to 2.932 miles) but even so, in qualifying for the 1986 race, Keke Rosberg (Williams-Honda) was able to lap at a shade over 160 mph.
Silverstone first ran the British GP as a Championship event in 1950, indeed it was the very first WC race. Between 1955 and 1962, Aintree hosted the race on five occasions and, between 1964 and 1986, Silverstone alternated with Brands Hatch. After 1986, it was awarded the British GP on a long-term basis and the BRDC became sufficiently secure to carry out a development programme.
An additional corner, Bridge Bend, was added just before Woodcote for 1987, and the chicane was removed. This altered the length to 2.969 miles. A major revision of the layout was undertaken for 1991 which tamed the awesomely fast Maggotts curve and Stowe and Club corner and added a sequence of bends prior to Woodcote.
In the aftermath of the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola in 1994, many circuits were modified in order to reduce speed and increase driver safety. As a consequence of this the entry from Hangar Straight into Stowe Corner was modified in 1995 so as to make its entry less dangerous and, as a result, less challenging, and the flat-out Abbey kink was modified to a chicane in just 19 days before the 1994 GP.
In the years that followed there was bitter wrangle between Bernie Ecclestone and the BRDC which threatened the future not only of F1 at Silverstone but the British Grand Prix.
One deal that saw Ecclestone sign a contract with Brands Hatch fell through when the owners couldn't get the necessary permission to develop the Kent circuit. However, the writing was clearly on the wall with the F1 supremo never missing an opportunity to hit out at Silverstone and its owners.
In August 2007 it was announced that a £25m redevelopment of the circuit had been approved, with new grandstands, pit facilities and a development centre planned. However, less than a year later it was announced that the Grand Prix would move to Donington Park from 2010.
A £5 million renovation plan was put forward in February 2009, the most notable change being the addition of a new Arena section that would see drivers turn right at the Abbey Chicane and head towards a new section in what was then the infield, turning left onto the National Circuit straight and then rejoining the original Grand Prix circuit at Brooklands, just before Woodcote and the finishing straight. The new Arena would consist of three new grandstands.
As the Donington move ran into problem after problem, not least the failure to raise the necessary funding, in June 2009 Ecclestone stated that there would be a British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2010 if Donington was not ready to host it.
In October 2009, it was revealed that Donington had failed to raise the £135 million needed to carry out the necessary work to stage the British Grand Prix and that Ecclestone had offered the race back to Silverstone, but that the terms appeared to be the same as those the BRDC had rejected the first time around.
In December 2009, Silverstone was awarded the rights to host the British Grand Prix for the next 17 years. Part of the deal was for a new pit and paddock complex to be built.
The British Grand Prix started to use the Arena circuit configuration in 2010, thereby increasing the track's length by 759 metres. Ahead of the 2011 Grand Prix, the new pit and paddock complex was completed, making the straight between Club and Abbey corners the new pit straight.
Fast Facts - Provided by the FIA
2017 marked the 68th British Grand Prix. It is one of only two ever-present races on the F1 World Championship calendar, the other being the Italian Grand Prix. The race has been held five times at Aintree and 12 times at Brands Hatch with the remainder at Silverstone. Silverstone has hosted the race exclusively since 1987.
With 16 victories, Ferrari are the most successful entrant in Britain, ahead of McLaren who have 14. 13 of Ferrari's wins have come at Silverstone, including their first win in F1, the 1951 race won by Jose Froilan Gonzalez.
Jim Clark and Alain Prost are the most successful drivers at the British Grand Prix, with five wins each. All five of Prost's victories came at Silverstone, whereas Clark won three at Silverstone, and one each at Aintree and Brands Hatch. Lewis Hamilton has the opportunity to join the group this weekend, having won four British Grands Prix.
Hamilton also has a chance to emulate Clark this weekend by winning four British Grands Prix in a row, following victories for Mercedes in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Hamilton's first win on this circuit came in 2008 for McLaren. Racing for Lotus, Clark won the race in 1962-1965 and again in 1967.
Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are the other winners of the British Grand Prix in this year's field. Alonso won for Renault in 2006 and Ferrari in 2011, Raikkonen won for Ferrari in 2007, and Vettel won for Red Bull Racing in 2009.
Since adopting the new start/finish straight in 2011 the driver starting from pole position has won only twice - though these are the last two races here, won by Hamilton in 2015 and 2016. Alonso won from P3 in 2011, while Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg both won from P2 in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Hamilton has won from furthest back on the current layout, starting P6 in 2014.
All three of this year's Silverstone rookies raced here in junior series. Lance Stroll made his FIA European F3 Championship debut at Silverstone in 2015, recording a sixth place, fifth place and a DNF. A year earlier Esteban Ocon appeared in the F3 season-opener, finishing second, first and third. Ocon returned the following year in GP3, finishing sixth in the feature race and second in the sprint. Stoffel Vandoorne made his Silverstone debut in the 2010 Formula Renault F4 Eurocup 1.6, finishing fourth and second. He returned in 2011 for two fourth-place finishes in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and then in the 2014 and 2015 GP2 Series, finishing third in the feature race and ninth in the sprint both times.
Webber's lap record of 1:33.401 set in 2013 is considerably slower than that set by Fernando Alonso on the same track in 2010, the final year of Bridgestone tyres. Driving for Ferrari, Alonso lapped Silverstone in 1:30.874 in the first grand prix to be held on the new Arena layout. The following year, the pitlane was relocated to its present position. While the track did not change, the control line moved, and thus the record was reset.